I have a friend who on many occasions has expressed sentiments to me such as, "I always feel like I have to do more and be better and still I'll never be good enough." and she laments often of feeling worthless. I hate this. I want to be able to fix this for her. But, it's not even just her…it's like…so many woman feel this same way…Why do we feel this way?
For me...I can see it going way back...My parents never approved of "me" as I was. Sort of like the kid on "How to Train Your Dragon". My parents were constantly pushing me to be "better". They were constantly pushing me to be what they thought "I could be if I just tried hard enough". They believed I could be a straight A student if I just applied myself. So, if I brought home my report card and I had an A- in one class, they weren't like, "Great grades" they were like, "Why isn't this an A?"
Then...when I got pregnant at age 17...they were simply so disgusted with this situation that they saw nothing good in it. Nothing good in "me". When I paused and struggled over "what to do about it"...paused to think about if I should keep the baby or not...I felt like the fact that I actually stopped and thought, "Hmm...this was my mistake...if someone should lose their life over this...it probably should be me..." that that was something noble in me...something selfless that deserved recognition in the midst of the big pile of manure I'd just shoveled onto the floor, but no. Nothing I did had any virtue in their eyes if I wasn't doing exactly what they thought I should. I was their worst case scenario for a child. My heart mattered nothing...ever...only my actions and if they didn't measure up...neither did I.
And, so, here I am today. I've been out of my parents' house since I was 17. And, that's more than half my life ago...24 years have gone since then. And, yet still today...I feel inadequate in every sense. I don't cook good-enough food. I don't homeschool good-enough. I don't spend enough time with the kids. I don't look good-enough. I'm worthless and good-for-nothing and can't understand why anyone talks to me at all. Every time the credit card machine judges me and flashed, "Approved" on the screen it makes me feel weird. I have like 800 "friends" on facebook and you know I've like requested maybe 100 of them. So, I've had 700 people request a connection with me, yet, I feel like everyone finds me stupid and annoying. I feel certain that every time I "share" something that it's an irritation. I feel mostly comfortable with clicking "like" buttons because at least no one can really fault me for reading an article and clicking "like" and so fb posts itself...that's not so irritating, is it?
<heavy sigh> How can someone my age... be so far removed from the days when I was treated that way and STILL feel this way? It's wired into us...literally...biologically...
So, I sat the other night trying to write a letter to my friend to encourage her, and I was thinking about all this and suddenly something struck me.
The Bible says we are to "LEAVE our parents and CLEAVE to our spouse."
I don't think this is talking about moving out of our parents' house. I don't think this is just merely talking about looking from our parents to our spouse for counsel and decision making either. I think it's more...
Well…(for we ladies) let's try to imagine how the men we are married to felt when they were getting to know us. Well, first let's imagine them meeting someone they felt was annoying, worthless, ugly, good-for-nothing, stupid, etc. When our men met women like that...did they...pursue them and try to marry them? When women like that approached them and tried to hook up with them did they jump for joy and go for it? Or, did they run far far away from them?
I asked my husband if while he was single if any women he'd identify as the aforementioned ever approached him and was he all excited and did he want to go out with them and marry them? He was like, "no…"
So, when our men 1st were getting to know us...they thought things like,
"Wow...I really like her."
"She would make a good mom for my children"
"I like being around her".
When they 1st met us they couldn't wait to see us again when we'd end a date and go our separate ways. We would be on their minds all day long till they got to see us again. When they'd see on their caller ID that it was us calling they felt an instant surge of adrenaline 'cause they were excited it was us. They laid in bed at night and anticipated someday when they'd get to sleep with us. They thought...we...were...AWESOME!
SO…if the man and woman are to be "one flesh"…one mind…united IN Christ...if I insist on believing that I am anything other than what my spouse sees me as...if I am clinging to these beliefs about myself which clearly came from my parents...if I'm clinging to these beliefs and allowing them to affect me "now"...I have not left my parents. I am still "cleaving" to my parents.
With all the reading I've done about child development…I don't believe it is too easy to stop clinging to these beliefs we're "trained" to have. When a baby girl is brought home and dropped off in a crib and left to cry alone in the darkness till she figures out that she's not worth coming to soothe and she learns that the only one who is always there for her is "herself". We "train" babies to conform to our schedules because we don't want them interfering with our lives. And, in this way we teach them that they are not worthy. Even the common belief that it is OK to hit children (spanking) teaches us that when we make mistakes we deserve to suffer and makes us frustrated when we see others doing wrong and not suffering for it.
Then for those of us with parents who always pushed and pushed us to "be better"…how are we ever to look in the mirror and be satisfied? How are we ever to look at our own lives, our own decisions, and feel good about ourselves? How are we ever to see ourselves as anything but someone who is in the way of others' pleasure, a nuisance, and someone who will never be good enough? Even though our parents didn't intend this, these lessons we are taught from day 1 actually wire our brains and makes it almost unnatural to begin to believe now as adults that we ARE worthy and we ARE loved. It's like trying to unlearn being able to read or ride a bike. Once you've learned something, it's in there.
But...that's why we're transformed by the renewing of our minds...and why we can do ALL THINGS thru Him who strengthens us.
Partly I have no hope for people trained this way. Partly I have no hope that I'll ever be able to shake the feeling of worthlessness and inadequacy. But, if we can do all things thru Christ…then somehow this must be possible…for me…and for you.
And, when I can't see the whole path ahead of me, I can at least do what Bob on "What About Bob" learned…and take baby steps. And, last night…as I thought to write a letter to my friend who feels this way who also told me, "I find it strange to feel encouraged by my dad", that we can at least start by identifying and calling what our parents did with us what it actually was. We don't have to stop loving or appreciating our parents. You actually love them more if you love them even tho' you see them for who and what they really are…fallible. If we insist on protecting our parents' reputations in our minds by insisting they did good with us…when we are adults who can't even love ourselves…we are lying…and no matter how bad a job our parents have done with us pretty much all of our parents have at least taught us not to lie.
So, I believe that the Biblical command is where we need to start…and if we do that everything will eventually work out and fall into place where it should. We need to, as women, we need to separate ourselves from our parents. Separate…not estrange. Separate. And, when we do that we need to identify how our parents made us feel. Identify what they did. Call it what it is. Allow ourselves to feel the hurt and the anger we felt being abandoned to our cribs to cry alone while mom and dad slept contentedly together. We need to allow ourselves to feel the anger and even rage we were not allowed to feel when we were struck by our parents and were not allowed to react in anger or we got hit again…allow ourselves the time to be angry about it and then to forgive…and then cleave to the one who pursued us because he thought we were awesome…pretty…smart…and then begin to see ourselves thru his eyes…
It's at least a start...
But, what do you do if your marriage is so old and messed up that your husband only sees you now as a b-word...well...I guess this isn't a very encouraging blog posting...'cause I know our lives are never as simple as a blog posting...but...for the ideal...for the newlyweds...this...is a very good start...and I would have to wonder that for those of us who have relationships which are no longer so ideal...could it be that if we do not begin to see each other the way the OTHER sees us if they instead begin to see us as we see ourselves? Humans...are so complex...
That's me as a baby...